Forgetting something inside a patient’s body may seem to be the height of carelessness, but it happens much more often than most people would believe. While the most commonly retained surgical item (RSI) is a sponge, there have been instances when CT scans revealed scalpels, scissors, and other rather large metal objects as the cause of pain and discomfort in a patient sometimes years after the operation. So it requires no real stretch of the imagination to discover that there are cases where the RSI left is part of a robot.
A medical malpractice lawsuit was filed and won by a woman in Oregon against the doctor that used the da Vinci surgical system on her for a procedure that removed her right fallopian tube, ovary and appendix, and a malfunction caused a plastic item from the robot to be left behind. Three years later, a CT scan for an unrelated surgery revealed the presence of the foreign object, which turned out to be a laparoscopy sheath.
In that case, da Vinci surgical robot maker Intuitive Surgical was given a pass, but there have been numerous instances when Da Vinci robot errors were traced to defects in the system’s design or malfunction of the mechanical parts rather than to surgeon error. A majority of plaintiffs against the medical device manufacturer alleged electrical burns caused by malfunctioning tip covers as the main cause of their injuries, in some cases eventually causing death.
The legal problems of Intuitive have been exacerbated further by a suit filed by its shareholders against the company’s board of directors for underreporting the complications caused by the robotic system. Share price for Intuitive dropped from $573 to $393 when the actual number of injuries and deaths attributed to the device hit the newsstands.
Patients who have developed complications from having the da Vinci surgical robot used on them or from RSI may be eligible to seek compensation. If you are one of them, get in touch with a product liability or medical malpractice lawyer in the area to assess your case.